Considering the quality of their opponent, the final score wasn't all that embarrassing.
Up against a team that played in the last World Cup in South Africa, the Philippine Azkals relied on superb defense to keep the match scoreless for nearly an hour, but eventually North Korea's might proved too much to overcome, and the Koreans came away with a 2-0 win in the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The Koreans, defending champions in this event, stamped their class early on and constantly challenged the Philippine back four of Juan Guirado, Jason Sabio, Ray Jonsson and Carlie De Murga with crisp passing and good possession ball, but were unable to break through in the first half.
They had an excellent chance, though, in the 17th minute when they were rewarded a penalty kick after a Philippine foul inside the box. Pak Song-Chol found the back of the net, sending Neil Etheridge the wrong way, but the referee ordered a retake due to encroachment. This time, Etheridge guessed right and made a brilliant save to keep it scoreless.
In the 25th, North Korea again threatened after Etheridge was beaten, but Sabio blocked what looked to be a sure goal with his shoulder. North Korea continued its relentless attack, but some inspired defending by the Azkals for the remainder of the first half kept the match scoreless.
The Philippines got some good chances towards the end of the half, perhaps the best one coming in the 40th when James Younghusband kept the ball alive deep in the Korean penalty box and found Angel Guirado lurking by his lonesome at the top of the box. The Fil-Spaniard did well to turn and get off a good shot, but the ball was deflected by a Korean defender and sailed just inches to the right of the goal post.
North Korea finally broke through in the 57th minute after Pak Nam Chol's header off a cross from Jong Il Gwan found the back of the net. The lead doubled 13 minutes later when Etheridge fumbled a catch, allowing Jang Kuk Chol an easy strike at an open goal. Etheridge complained of interference, but the referee would have none of it.
After the second goal, Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss sent in Chieffy Caligdong for a tired Paul Mulders in an effort to shake up their offense. Caligdong, in his first match since injuring his knee in the UFL last January, teamed with Phil Younghusband up front as the duo tried to create scoring chances, but North Korea would not let this one slip away.
It was still a commendable result for the Philippines against a team ranked 46 places higher in the world rankings and is the defending champion of this event. North Korea showed why they are favorites to repeat, displaying good short passing and executing with clockwork precision. All in all, North Korea outshot the Philippines 16-6 to underscore their dominance. Only desperate defending by Etheridge and the back line prevented the score from getting out of control.
The Philippines now needs to win its last two matches against India on Sunday and Tajikistan on Tuesday to advance outright to the semifinals. Etheridge, James Younghusband, Angel Guirado and substitute Lexton Moy will all have to watch it against India, having all been booked for yellow cards.
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